The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants

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Pub Date 18 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 18 Apr 2023
Smith Publicity, Amble Press

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Award-winning author and immigration attorney Orlando Ortega-Medina returns to 1990s San Francisco in The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants, a powerful family drama that plays out within a captivating legal thriller.

Attorney Marc Mendes, the estranged son of a prominent rabbi and a burned-out lawyer with addiction issues, plots his exit from the big city to a more peaceful life in idyllic Napa Valley. But before realizing his dream, the US government summons his Salvadoran life partner Isaac Perez to immigration court, threatening him with deportation.

As Marc battles to save Isaac, his world is further upended by a dark and alluring client who aims to tempt him away from his messy life. Torn between his commitment to Isaac and the pain-numbing escapism offered by his client, Marc is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils while confronting his twin demons of past addiction and guilt over the death of his first lover.

Inspired by events that forced the author and his partner to emigrate from the United States because of marriage inequality, The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants is an extraordinary and timely tale about the value of family and friendship, loyalty, and love in the face of adversity.


Award-winning author and immigration attorney Orlando Ortega-Medina returns to 1990s San Francisco in The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants, a powerful family drama that plays out within a captivating legal...

Advance Praise

"Ortega-Medina’s novel works on many levels—as a twisty romantic melodrama; as an exposé of the cruelties of immigration law; and as a meditation on family and homeland...[his] prose captures characters’ psychologies in the subtleties of gesture and language...a riveting yarn with a charismatic tempter. 

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"There's plenty of drama inside and outside the courtroom…plus stalking and 90s homophobia–in this deeply moving novel with depth and heart that explores how difficult it is to find a place called home in a world filled with hate."

—Lev Raphael, author of Winter Eyes

"The thrills in this legal thriller come not only from its plot but also from its rich portrait of the varieties of American estrangement."

—Michael Lowenthal, author of Sex with Strangers

"Orlando Ortega-Medina’s The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants is equal parts love story, legal thriller, and social commentary that powerfully—and seamlessly—weaves together disparate narratives to produce a provocative, big-hearted page-turner of a novel. All the while, the author does not shy away from big issues such as homophobia, our broken immigration system, parental disapproval, and religious heritage. But at the center of this book is one person’s search for love and meaning. The result is a story that will intrigue and move readers with its eloquence and humanity. What a triumph!"

—Daniel A. Olivas, author of How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories

"Ortega-Medina’s novel is a quiet thriller, simmering with tension, a story of exile in which the most haunted fugitive turns out to be the man on the run from himself."

—Hilary Zaid, author of Paper is White and Forget I Told You This

"Powerful, absorbing, and compelling storytelling with injustice and humanity at its heart. These characters will stay with you…"

—Helen Lederer, comedian, actress (AbFab), and author of Losing It

"Compelling and important…"

—Thomas Mogford, author of the Spike Sanguinetti crime series

"[A] brilliantly crafted, gripping tale of love, loyalty, seduction, and deceit, which is both a page-turning thriller, and a universal story of compassion and human survival."

—Adam Price Ph.D., author of “The Unmotivated Teen” (Psychology Today) and He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe in Himself

"More than just a top-tier legal thriller, Orlando Ortega-Medina's The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants is a human story infused with a strong undercurrent of love and empathy that quickens the pulse, squeezes the heart, and carries the reader along to the last page."

—Brett Marie, author of The Upsetter Blog

"Ortega-Medina’s novel works on many levels—as a twisty romantic melodrama; as an exposé of the cruelties of immigration law; and as a meditation on family and homeland...[his] prose captures...

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Available Editions

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ISBN 9781612942636
PRICE $21.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

Ortega-Medina’s story is the most mature queer story I have read in a while. The main characters don’t feel like the perfect heroes, they are written to act like real humans and despite their flaws you want them to achieve their goal and get past the rough time they are going through. The same can’t be said about the villain of the story, he was there to be an evil genius that main goal was to get what he wants at any cost, and not knowing if he is ever telling the truth, Silva comes off feeling shallow compared to the protagonist.

The subjects of immigration, reconnecting with family, overcoming trauma and addiction, death, and of giving the person you love a second chance are all exquisitely explored. It will keep you thinking about how different things were in the 1990s, but regardless of social and political progress many people are still going trough similar situations.

Orland Ortega-Medina nicely wraps up the story with a cherry on top that made made my jaw drop in the last two pages.

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It is a beautiful and heartbreaking story set in the 90s, about Marc Mendes, a former addict, who grew up in a Jewish family with a father as a Rabbi.
His partner Isaac has fled from Salvador as his whole family except him and his mother survive.
When Isaac might be deported it sets a lot in motion.
This book like his other one (The Savior of 6th Street) is beautifully written and absolutely devastating. The world building is amazing and even though all the people in the book are flawed, you get so invested in the rest. He really sucks you in with story and language. The book has a lot of overarching themes of family, chosen family, generational trauma, trying to find home. I highly recommend this book.

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#TheFitfulSleepofImmigrants #NetGalley


Where to even begin with this wonderful novel. I finished this novel early in the morning, and as I laid in bed with my hand gripped to my kindle tapping the screen to keep turning the page I couldn't help but feel the emotions that both Marc and Issac our main characters. This novel shifted from what I thought it was going to be in the beginning to something completely more heartfelt. The struggle of being an immigrant that came into the United states illegally. But not only does Issac have to worry about being deported back to his home country where most of family was killed; Marc, our other main character, goes through his own battles. Self inflicted, at times selfish and tests the loyalty of his life partner Issac.

Just before the halfway mark, Marc decides to introduce Issac to his parents. Which caused a whole bunch of stress to Marc because of his father and his fathers title. To Marc's surprise, his father was okay with his son being gay, and was glad to have him back. For six years Marc hadn't visited his parents, who were living in the same state as him, but hours away. After a brief period of awkwardness, his father let loose and welcomed Issac into the family and for the remaining of the book, Marc's parents were keen on making sure Issac feel like family.

The short period they were together at Marc's parents house, Issac got a call that altered his mood for a quarter of the novel, which leads us on a journey that I couldn't help but fall deep with. Through the late nights I was awake with a newborn, I couldn't help but keep this book on the bed with me. And every chance I got, I was reading it. By far, this has been a great start to the 2023 reading year.

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Loved this story! It takes you to so many different places psychologically and emotionally. This played out in my head like a movie.

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Thanks very much to NetGalley and Amble Press for the eARC of this very interesting and unique book.

I was originally drawn to request an ARC of this book because I'm on the hunt for unique legal fiction--something that's more complex and nuanced than your standard "legal thriller." This novel definitely fits the bill.

Marc, the protagonist, having survived addiction and terrible trauma in his past, seems to be doing fairly well when the book opens--he's finally sober and has a successful legal practice (as a partner in a small firm five years out of law school) and a loving partner, Isaac. However, everything begins to fall apart when Isaac, a would-be asylum seeker from El Salvador, receives a notice that he may be deported (the book is set long before marriage equality in the U.S., in the late 1990s); a former client won't leave him alone; and his law partner asks him to work on a new case with some very unsympathetic clients. The writing is great, and the characters absolutely seemed real to me--nobody is 100% good or 100% bad in this book (something that, without giving away any spoilers, is never more apparent than on the last page!).

I also really liked the nuanced and accurate depiction of the various legal matters going on in the book--as a former litigator and current ALJ (though not in immigration law), I found myself highlighting a lot. Even before reading his biography, I could tell that the author was an experienced attorney. However, I don't think you need to have that background to enjoy this book--which is, at its heart, a love story, and a story of healing. Highly recommended.

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Devastating and beautiful at the same time, this will be a book I think about for a long time and will bring up to my friends just as often.

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This book was phenomenal. I have been mulling it over for the past month trying to write a review to do proper justice to this book. It won't be able to do that, but I will do my best.

Set in San Francisco in the 90's, Ortega-Medina spins a twisting web of story around Marc Mendes and his lover Isaac Perez. Marc is a recovering addict, and dreams of an escape from his big city legal life to a simpler life. Throwing a wrench in those plans, Isaac is called before the US Immigration board and threatened with expulsion from America. The various legal components of this book, from Marc's work to Isaac's experience with the immigration court feel spot on for accuracy, and help cast a vividly detailed world of this book. Ortega-Medina has a JD in law and personal experience with expatriation, and that shines through in this book.

Overlaid in the book is Marc's past, a history he has tried to forget, and self alienation from his family due to his sexuality. The book is twisting and thrilling,, with the claws of ex-client Alejandro Silva always at the ready with an obsession that may pull Marc under.

This book kept me guessing, and mesmerized me, right up until it gently but neatly pulled the rug out from under me in the last pages. Highly, highly recommend you give it a read.

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I wish I could put into words how beautiful this book is. I went in thinking this was going to be just a legal drama with some LGBTQ+ elements but this story is so much more than that.

The main character, Marc, is a successful lawyer in San Francisco who slowly begins to spiral and is at a breaking point where he’ll either pull it together or lose everything. This story takes us through his struggle with addiction and his partner potentially being deported to El Salvador. Both Marc and Isaac’s family have fled their country for different reasons and these life circumstances are so beautifully depicted throughout the story.

Marc’s struggles with his addictions are incredibly raw and we get to see him make some choices that made me want to scream at him through my Kindle. My favorite aspect of this book is Isaac’s struggle with the immigration system in the U.S. It’s a system that’s incredibly flawed and often leaves even the best of individuals with zero options for citizenship or some form of status relief. I work with undocumented immigrants and one of the most frustrating aspects of my job is knowing that many of my clients are going to build beautiful lives here only to eventually be removed from the country they’ve learned to call him. This book captures this struggle so accurately and I’m glad to see this issue being addressed.

This is definitely in my “top 10” list and I’m already looking forward to rereading it.

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Felt like I learned a lot about immigration and I’m honestly shocked more people aren’t taking about this book. It was so well written, the characters are perfect (not all good or all bad).

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While this in some ways felt like some things I've read before, the law aspect of this book made it unique and the characters and their pain is something that will stick with me for a long long time.

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The reading of this book was made possible thanks to Netgalley.

It is end of the 1990s in San Franciso. Marc Mendes is a lawyer with six years of practice as a partner of a Law Firm, most in labor cases. He's a stable longtime relationship with Isaac Perez, a Salvadorean who fled his country at the height of civil war and landed in the USA. Besides that, Marc has to face the fact that there is an upcoming visit to his family with whom he kind of broke relations for years.

Life might not be perfect, but it is good after all, mainly when you have come out clean from drug abuse. And out of nothing, things start getting out of hand when a charming client, an ex-convict, Alejandro Silva enters the picture; besides that, Marc is forced upon a case he doesn't feel fine with, and to make matters worse Isaac receives a bad letter by the immigration office.

To be honest, I sometimes felt that the characters were flat, with the exception of Marc himself and his father, the rabbi, though I have the idea that the story was, in part, based on the author's own life. Though it seemed that the one who so much needed attention was Isaac, for all the struggles he has to go through, it was the very troubled Marc that really caught my attention, it was him who spiced up the narrative. And in some ways, he really spiced it up.

As for the writing itself, I enjoyed Ortega-Medina's development of the story, always keeping the reader eager for the next chapter to find out what's in store. I recommend it dearly.

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I'm so thankful to have received digital access to The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants by Orlando Ortega-Medina leading up to its publication date of April 18, 2023. I thought this piece of literary fiction, translated at that, was so well done and I can't wait to run to my feed to see what my fellow readers think of this work of art. I am so thankful to NetGalley, and Smith Publicity/Amble Press additionally for the bookish love.

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